The United States Postal Services courted political bias when they allowed employees to take unpaid “union official” leave to help the Hilary Clinton campaign during the 2016 presidential elections.
The Office of Special Counsel noted in their report that the USPS “engaged in systemic violations” of the Hatch Act which limits federal employees from taking part in certain political activities. The report indicated that the USPS showed “bias” as they granted “union leave” to some 97 employees.
“Specifically, USPS’s practice of facilitating carrier releases for the union’s political activity resulted in an institutional bias in favor of [National Association of Letter Carriers] endorsed political candidates, which the Hatch Act prohibits,” the Office of Special Counsel indicated.
It has been highlighted that these employees took several weeks off and were reimbursed by the National Association of Letter Carriers for the work they performed for the Clinton campaign.
The Fox News, whilst getting their hands on a copy of the report by the OSC notes, “According to OSC Acting Special Counsel Adam Miles, the NALC provided lists of letter carriers to participate in campaign activity to a senior headquarters USPS labor relations official, who then emailed the lists to other USPS officials across the country. According to Miles, the local officials ‘interpreted the communications as directives’ from USPS headquarters to release the carriers on union official leave without pay.”
Miles, in a testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee stated that “We concluded that the USPS practice of facilitating and directing carrier releases for the union’s political activity resulted in an institutional bias in favor of NALC’s endorsed political candidates, which the Hatch Act prohibits.”
However, Fredric Rolando, president of the NALC denied the claims made by OSC’s report and argued, “[W]e reject the OSC’s conclusions that the granting of LWOP (leave without pay) represents either a ‘systematic violation of the Hatch Act’ or an ‘institutional bias in favor of NALC’s endorsed political candidates.’”
Megan Brennan USPS Postmaster General emphasized that “senior postal leadership did not in any way guide union leadership in selecting the candidates for whom NALC employees could campaign” and that USPS “did not approve or choose candidates for the unions to support” and nor did they “ask the union to advocate for political candidates on behalf of the Postal Service.”
“I also note that our postal unions do not speak for the Postal Service, and the Postal Service does not speak for our unions,” she further added in her testimony and argued that the UPS had no intentions of supporting or assisting the NALC’s “favored candidate.”
The Fox notes, “Brennan said that the practice to grant leave without pay for NALC political activity has been in place for approximately 20 years, but that all violations of the Hatch Act were ‘unintentional.’”
She stated that “We will change our practice in consultation with the OSC and based upon OSC’s guidance. This will ensure that we do not put our people in harm’s way and they do not unintentionally run afoul of the Hatch Act.”
“As we have previously communicated to both this committee and to the OSC, and as the OSC has acknowledged, the Postal Service has always been ready, willing and able to end or modify our practice as appropriate, consistent with OSC’s recommendation,” she added.
The USPS workers that opted for the leave went “door-to-door canvassing, phone banks and other get-out-the-vote efforts,” as the “The Labor 2016 program sought to ‘elect Hillary Clinton and pro-worker candidates across the country,”’ the report indicated.
Timm Kopp, a USPS employee mentioned that he and many of co-workers had to work overtime as some of the USPS workers went on leave. He further stated that he tried to raise his concerns. However, he supervisor told him that “people higher up the chain” had ordered him to let the employees go leabe.
“I was told that this was how it’s always been done and we are trying to get people in office who will help the Postal Service get favorable legislation passed,” he stated in his written testimony.
Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, brought the issue to OSC’s attention in October. “In the grand scheme of things, the data identified by the investigations — 97 employees out of work and a sampled overtime cost of $90,000 — do not seem like large numbers, especially here in Washington. But there were unquantified consequences of this practice,” Johnson stated.
Talking about Kopp, he stated “One postmaster in Wisconsin noted 10 operational concerns stemming from this practice, including ‘penalty overtime, late trips to the plant, and safety issues.’ The practice also put non-union employees, or union employees who supported other candidates, at a disadvantage.”